15 Mar Test Driving the iMainGo Portable iPod Speaker System: The Price is Right, but the Sound is Wrong
There’s yet another iPod accessory for you to consider: The iMainGo from Portable Sound Laboratories. It takes some work to sort through all the latest iPod gear since Apple now has many other businesses fighting to get a bit of the portable music device market share.
By now, if you are like me, you are hopelessly attached to your iPod. In fact you may own one or two of these devices and maybe have even upgraded from to the 5th Generation released in late 2006. (To read more about these models check out “The New G5 iPods” by Tig). Let’ face it, since the iPod was launched we’ve become a world of MP3 junkies. Is the iMainGo the newest fix?
I got the chance to review an early model of the iMainGo and want to share my findings. Let’s start with what works. This portable sound device is incredibly easy to assemble and operate. I am not a genius when it comes to assembly. Yet, from opening the box to swaying to Laura Veirs, it took me under two minutes.
Another plus, the iMainGo is very light. Just nine ounces–significant when compared to the Bose sound dock which can weigh 5 pounds or more.
Though not the most aesthetically pleasing, I found the sewn nylon case to be very sturdy; it keeps your iPod swaddled like a newborn–making this a perfect accessory for folks who want music while working out, but don’t want to wear headphones or bodily attach their iPod. Clumsy listeners will can knock this off theirs desks without fear of damage to the iPod or speaker. Fashion conscious folks will appreciate the color coordination iMainGos are available in basic black as well as hot pink, electric blue, lime green and silver.
More good news, the according to the manufacturer, iMainGo is compatible with all makes and models of iPods and will work with most other MP3 players.
The iMainGo will give you long-lasting sound. The battery life runs about 30 hours. And here’s some more good news: Batteries are included. That’s right. When the iMainGo ships, it has everything you need to get up and running. Four AAA are included. It would be more economical and environmentally friendly with rechargeable batteries, but that may come with the next batch of revisions.
The most important thing iMainGo’s got going for it is price. $49.95 is an excellent price for a gadget to take to the office, leave in a locker, or take on a trip.
Now the downside. And let’s not sugar coat this: The sound is crummy. While the manufacturers claim the high definition speakers provide “stunning audio reproduction,” I found the sound to be tinny and muddy. This was especially troubling when listening to a crisp vocalist like Eva Cassidy. For my money, I’ll stick with the Bose Sound Dock (read all about it on AC’s great article by Anne Ng). Yes, it is exponentially more expensive ($250 versus $50), but I’m an admitted a sound snob.
What else bothers me? The controls were harder to work through the protective plastic casing. I found the volume control much more nuanced when I use my iPod outside of the iMainGo. The fumbling around while trying to skip tracks and locate a playlist got frustrating after two or three tries.
My advice: Research the other offerings in the portable speaker category before ordering the iMainGo. Start with Scott Kressman’s article on portable speakers, and read as many reviews as possible. While the iMainGo may fit your budget, ask yourself of it is worth what you are sacrificing in sound quality. Don’t you want your favorite tunes to come alive? For me, when I want to hear Imogen Heap, I want clear, high resolution, and I’m willing to pay for it. While you’ll want to purchase a few accessories to make the most of your iPod, the $49.95 iMainGo shouldn’t’t be top on your list.
If you want to know more about great sound choices, check out Holoplot.